Tag Archives: Streaming on Netflix

Paper Year

Franny (Eve Hewson) and Dan (Avan Jogia) are young and broke but they’re terribly in love so they get married at city hall, keeping mum until after the fact.

The first year of marriage is supposed to be the easiest. You’re literally still in the honeymoon period. You’re still writing thank you cards for all the wonderful gifts you received at the wedding. You’re blind with bliss and you’re killing it so hard at this marriage thing that you practically think you invented it. But it’s also a time of transition and adjustment. Now that you’re officially bound to another human being, you have to make real compromise.

Franny and Dan are in for a bumpy ride. He, an out-of-work actor, takes a job house sitting/ dog walking while some other, luckier actor is out of town. She, a writer, finally lands a job writing for a terrible reality TV show. It’s not a glamourous job but she does respect her boss, head writer Noah (Hamish Linklater)….maybe a little too much? Because it certainly causes friction at home, her landing a dream-adjacent job, and him taking a job that forces him to admit that acting is not a thing he gets paid to do. Their paths diverging, they grow apart.

Paper is the traditional anniversary gift for a first anniversary. But I think in this case, it’s also referring to the fragility of that first year. Paper is so easily creased. So easily ripped, in fact. By the third year you’re into leather, which, whoa, is a lot more durable. Also durable: fifth year’s wood, 10th year’s aluminum, and motherfucking 60th anniversary’s diamond. Jeez Louise. Marriage, as an institution, makes less and less sense. And yet most of us are still making the attempt. Lots of us fail in that attempt. Some of us fail multiple times. I mean, can you even imagine being with someone for 60 years? When marriage was invented, it was a social bond, a partnership wherein financial stability and child rearing were emphasized. Today we expect everlasting romance. For 60 years? Yikes.

Franny and Dan are having a heck of a time just making it to year one. I remember my own year one: we bought a house, we got a third dog, and a new car. My nephew was born. My sister got married. Sean changed jobs. We traveled to New York City, and to Vegas where we renewed our vows for the first time. It was a good year. But Sean and I were not young newlyweds – Sean was an old maid in his 30s, in fact. We already had homes and careers and lives. We didn’t need to complete each other. Franny and Dan have a lot more working against them, and let’s be honest: they’re not half as charming as Sean and I. So while it’s understandable that you’d keep coming back here because we’re so damn irresistible, I’m not sure even 89 minutes is worth spending with Franny and Dan. Dan and Franny (do couples always agree on who’s name goes first?). Paper Year is an okay movie, strictly speaking, but it didn’t move me, it didn’t inform me, it didn’t delight me or captivate me. And those are all things I continue to get from my own marriage, on a surprisingly daily basis. And it’s just plain old Sean going about his ordinary life, being a (mostly) wonderful person and (largely) thoughtful husband.

1ST YEAR: Paper
2ND YEAR: Cotton
3RD YEAR: Leather
4TH YEAR: Fruit & Flowers, or Linen & Silk
5TH YEAR: Wood
6TH YEAR: Iron / Candy
7TH YEAR: Wool/ Copper
9TH YEAR: Pottery
10TH YEAR: Tin/ Aluminum
11TH YEAR: Steel
12TH YEAR: Silk
13TH YEAR: Lace
14TH YEAR: Ivory
15TH YEAR: Crystal
20TH YEAR: China
25TH YEAR: Silver
30TH YEAR: Pearl
35TH YEAR: Coral
40TH YEAR: Ruby
45TH YEAR: Sapphire
50TH YEAR: Gold
55TH YEAR: Emerald
60TH YEAR: Diamond

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Pure Country Pure Heart

I’m as surprised as you are that this is a real thing. And nearly as surprised that Sean chose it.

Here’s a thing: it takes Sean longer to find a movie on Netflix than to watch a movie on Netflix. He flips through titles so quickly it literally gives me motion sickness to look at the screen, so he’s largely on his own, his bad taste off-leash, running amok through genres he knows damn well he has no business perusing.

Another thing: we are not above watching something in irony. Or even hate-watching something, if we’re in a mood (yes we have collective moods). The thing is, I didn’t know we were in a mood when Sean hit play on this, so yeah, I was taken aback. Was he drawn to the horsies? Or still dazzled by the best movie we’d seen all week: an Instagram video of my 3 year old niece singing Alcohol You Later?

Anyway. Two young sisters who love to sing their own country songs decide to go on a quest to Nashville (less than an afternoon’s drive in a rickety pickup truck, so not exactly an epic adventure, but still) to find out who their father was. I mean, who he was in terms of likes and dislikes and was he more of an autumn or a winter. Their mother doesn’t like to talk about him since he died…in a war? Iraq, maybe? Anyway, he’s a heroic war veteran who threw himself on a grenade to save some other guys in his unit (although not overly effectively, since it left at least one other guy paralyzed) (what, we’re not allowed to joke about stuff like that? Okay, fine. I guess someone’s in a mood after all).

Long, uninteresting story short: their dad liked to sing country too! In fact, he used to record and tour with this semi-famous country singer who they befriend. Behind their mother’s back of course, because mom likes the semi-famous country singer even less than she likes talking about her dead hero husband.

It weren’t no good. There’s lots of singing and lots of pie and surprisingly little talk about god. Willie Nelson’s in it, though he’s disavowed it. I know this because I could not for the life of me guess what this movie was called. The only clue was Willie’s presence, but his IMDB denies any knowledge of this film. So does google, for that matter. I asked Sean and he came back with the answer straight away, and I thought: Geez, this guy continues to surprise me. In fact, the only thing that should surprise me is that he’s able to sign in to Netflix from work, which is what he had to do when “country movie Netflix two sisters pies” failed as a search term. God I love this man.

Who Would YOU Take To A Deserted Island?

Four friends have shared a flat in Madrid for 8 freaking years and have managed not to go insane or kill each other. Now, near the end of the summer, they are celebrating their last day together in the home they’ve shared since they were kids. Life is about to change.

Celeste and Eze are friends who share a passion: Eze’s about to go off to London on a scholarship to study film while Celeste grapples with the fact that nothing is really happening with her life; she’s an actress considering working fast food to get by.

Marta and Marcos seem more solid, relationship-wise if not sex-wise. Marcos is off to med school, and Marta’s planning on following him, to teach ballet rather than dance herself.

Their aim for the night is to get drunk and act out their old tradition of singing loudly from their rooftop.

This is a Spanish movie, and Netflix offers a dubbed version, which has all the pitfalls of a dubbed version. The dialogue often feels a bit stilted and forced. Maybe that’s why the characters never felt accessible to me. I had trouble connecting to any of them.

Anyway, the movie is fully half way over before it gets to the point, ie, the title. Drunk, the 4 friends play a dicey game of Who Would You Take To A Deserted Island? Each of them gets to pick 2 friends, which is just another way of saying NOT choosing one, so the friend who gets left out feels like a piece of shit. Which sounds like a fun party game, no?

Not content to have things just be unbearably tense, they up the ante by making the game even funner. Now you can only choose one friend to take to the deserted island.

I think the premise is kind of interesting but the characters were just too annoying for anything to matter. Secrets are spilled, resentments become painfully clear, sure. Sure. But I just didn’t give a shit. I would 110% rather die alone on a deserted island than spend 10 minutes in the company of any of these people.

 

 

Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce

Another sleepless night, Sean snoring beside me. Suddenly, around 5:30am, all the usual racing thoughts preventing sleep start to congeal into just the once: today is Beyonce day.

Beyonce has been Queen for a long damn time. She’s more Queen than the Queen of England, because that lady is a figure head and Beyonce is for real. Beyonce is not just a pop star, she is a cultural icon, more than her voice, more than her marriage, more than MV5BNWYwMTExOTAtNjVmYi00MWVjLTgzZWUtZTI0OTE3YTgwMjM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_her style and her fame and her talent. She was a successful, powerful black woman, her success and power being so seemingly limitless that they transcended gender and race. And at the height of that power, Beyonce claimed both her blackness and her womanhood in a way that was political, artistic, and impossible to ignore. Now we need a word that is somehow more than Queen, and maybe the only name worthy is Beyonce itself.

Homecoming is a documentary detailing Beyonce’s brilliant performance at last year’s (2018) Coachella. But just as that show was more than a concert, the documentary ends up being much more than a recording. It’s a testament. This is Beyonce clearly comfortable in her strength, and the evidence is written in her lyrics, in her stage presence, and all over the damn screen. We witness Beyonce the businesswoman, Beyonce the workhorse, Beyonce the mother and wife, the artist and creator.

After a 22 year career, Beyonce has a whole lotta laurels upon which to rest her world-famous booty. Her name alone is enough to have Coachella gagging. Which is to say: she does not have to work this hard. She’s working like she’s NOT the most famous woman in the world. But Beyonce wasn’t going to just bring her music to the festival – she brought her culture, and she gave it to the people. She worked for 8 months to deliver a powerhouse 2 hour performance.

Fan or not, it’s completely impossibly to tear your eyes away from this woman so fully owning her power. A woman who – dare I say it? – is feeling herself, and not apologizing for it. Not one bit.

The Oath

A fear-mongering, power-hungry president has decided to asked his fellow Americans to sign a loyalty oath to prove their patriotism. There are incentives to signing – tax breaks, of course – but signing will be totally optional. Americans have nearly a year – until Black Friday – to opt in or out. No pressure. But during that year, things are not as easy-peasy as first promised. ‘Patriots’ turn vitriolic. Hate crimes increase. Protests often get violent. Protestors start to mysteriously disappear. ‘Concerned’ citizens start turning each other in.

Sound disturbingly plausible?

But of course holidays must still be observed, so we join Chris and Kai as they host is family for Thanksgiving.

MV5BNDM3ODAwMTc1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM1NDQxNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Chris (Ike Barinholtz) is staunchly against signing the oath; he and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) agree on that. But while Kai just wants to survive the family and survive her in-laws, Chris is glued to the television and obsessed with minute-to-minute reports from across the country. It’s hard to blame him: these are indeed crazy times.

Chris’s mother (Nora Dunn) insists on “no politics” at the table, but Chris can’t help but clash with his right-wing, oath-signing brother Pat and Pat’s alt-right, fake news spouting girlfriend. Even Chris’s “more reasonable” sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein) can’t get a word in. The first half of the movie plays out exactly like many of our own family gatherings would under similar circumstances. Ike Barinholtz, who also writes and directs, gets right to the heart of things, satirizing and underlining America’s troubling and polarizing partisanship. He keeps things interesting by casting Chris as equally culpable. He’s on the opposite side of the spectrum, but he’s every bit the blowhard, intolerant of every opinion but his own.

And then John Cho shows up. He and Billy Magnussen play CPU agents – that’s Citizens Protection Unit to you. It seems someone has reported Chris for his unAmerican activities. Cho plays a relatively reasonable guy, but Magnussen plays exactly the kind of guy who would be attracted to the position. Never mind that this oath was supposedly voluntary, he believes Chris is the worst kind of traitor, and he’ll stop at nothing (and I do mean nothing) to serve his country in the manner he’s deemed necessary. Shit goes south FAST. The film takes a detour toward the increasingly absurd, and yet Barinholtz never loses us because it never quite feels unrealistic. And maybe that’s the scariest part.

What I’ve failed to mention is that although this is technically a political comedy, it’s also a horror movie. It’s not gory or graphic or particularly scary to watch, but it is deeply frightening to feel how close we are to this very situation.

I may have enjoyed the concept more than I enjoyed the execution of this film, but damn if it didn’t keep me 100% mentally engaged and 110% emotionally enraged.

Every single character is acting out of love of family and love of country – every single one. But they’re coming at it from such different directions it feels impossible that they should all want the same thing. This is exactly American’s biggest problem right now, and the gap between the sides widens every day. No matter which side of the problem you think you’d come down on yourself, you must admit that in 2019, the most revolutionary act we can commit is one of compassion.

The Oath is a smart, thoughtful movie that I wanted to end only because I couldn’t wait to start talking about it.

The Dirt

You may not even believe that the dudes of Motley Crue are literate, but in fact, they released their Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band in 2001. The chapters (because yes, of course I’ve read it, I’VE READ EVERYTHING) alternate between the guys, and everyone’s got a version of the story they’re selling. Lots of the details conflict. In fact, lots of the big stuff conflicts too, but that’s part of the book’s charm. The guys sort of interact within its pages, rebutting each other’s alternate versions and extolling their own. The Dirt is even dirtier than you’d imagine.

So it’s kind of surprising that it took someone this long to make a movie out of it, but Netflix has, and it’s ripe for the streaming. 

The film alternates its point of view between the band members but the story is a little more cleanly told than it is in the book. And while almost by definition the antics are somewhat toned down, you’ll still get plenty of the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll that Motley Crue was known for. In fact, you won’t have to wait more than 3 minutes to see a woman squirting. Stay tuned for the heroin overdoses, vehicular manslaughter, and anonymous head.

Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), and Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) have some stories to tell. Tommy’s wholesome upbringing contrasts sadly with Nikki’s, while the other two get lost in the dust. The truth is, the 107 minute run time is brisk, and gives more screen time to trashing hotel rooms than it does to insightful backstory, because this is what draws the audience to any Motley Crue show: not the lessons learned or the underdog story, but the fights fought loud and proud and bloody. You come for the famous girlfriends and the venereal disease and the mountains of dope and the increasingly inventive use of leather. And fear not: director Jeff Tremaine delivers. He does best with those scenes of complete debauchery than he does with stitching them together into some cohesive story. And weirdly, the music is very nearly an afterthought. But if you’ve come for The Dirt, I promise you, you’ve found it.

Operator

Is this a poor man’s Her?

Sort of. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

MV5BMjExMTMyOTk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTU4NzEzMDI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_Joe (Martin Starr) is a programmer who’s probably on the spectrum and self-soothes with obsessively quantifying his every thought and feeling. His wife, Emily (Mae Whitman), is a hotel concierge with theatrical ambitions. They are a loving couple; she supports him, literally lays atop him light a human weighted blanket, and he applauds her every written word.

And then it all goes to hell.

Basically, he’s working on one of those phone operating systems where a customer calls in wanting to talk to a human but instead gets lost in a sea of options. His operating system is very sophisticated and intelligent, and like Alexa and Siri, she’ll need a voice, a calming but confident presence, and Joe figures: who better than his own wife and empathic helpmate, Emily?

Meanwhile, Emily has just joined a troupe of actors who put on teeny tiny plays that are achingly revelatory and personal. She has promised Joe not to use him as material, but he proves too tantalizing a subject.

So when their marriage hits the rocks, Joe starts dialing in to hear the operating system that sounds like his wife but never says no, and Emily starts flinging Joe’s most innermost personal shit across the stage just to see what sticks. It’s ugly, but it’s also fascinating.

Operator is funny, actually funny, and it’s anchored by two very bright performances by Starr and Whitman. But it’s also analytical and thoughtful and satirical. In short, it’s well-balanced and interesting, and if it doesn’t 100% work out in the end, it gets close enough. It will inevitably be compared to Her, but even if it’s a less attractive cousin, it’s still pretty good company to keep.